By admin | July 6, 2008
By Richard Allen
Recently, NASCAR assembled its crew chiefs and said they were open to suggestion as far as what to do about testing. The sanctioning body said everything from continuing with the current policy to wide open, unrestricted testing was on the table for discussion.
Currently, NASCAR allows testing in just a few regulated situations during the course of the season. Teams are allowed to test on the tracks in which the series competes only during these closely supervised situations. One such test was recently held at Pocono Raceway and another at the Lowe‘s Motor Speedway.
NASCAR allows off season testing in much the same way. Teams are allowed to test at Daytona and usually at tracks such as California, Las Vegas and/or other tracks that come up early in the season schedule.
Often, NASCAR has asked for input from its teams as to where the tests should occur. That is how the Pocono test came about this year.
There is no regulation in regard to teams testing on tracks in which the series does not compete. For that reason, the tracks in Kentucky, Milwaukee and the road course in Virginia get plenty of business from Sprint Cup teams.
Here is my simple solution as far as what to do about testing. That solution is to simply not have it.
Well, that is not exactly what I mean.
NASCAR should continue to allow off season testing. Teams should get to test at Daytona, an intermediate track such as Las Vegas and a short track like Martinsville or Bristol.
As far as during the season goes, when I say no testing what I really mean is that they should not have test sessions at tracks weeks before the event on that track is to occur.
One of the troubling issues about testing is the fact that big teams like Roush Fenway Racing and Hendrick Motorsports have an advantage over smaller teams like Robby Gordon Motorsports because those big teams have so many more cars and so much more manpower. The big teams take the data collected from those tests and go back to their shops, allow their engineers to work with that data, then devise a plan for their 3, 4 or 5 cars.
Here is my solution to that dilemma. Teams should be allowed to pick a certain number of tracks they want to get “extra practice” on. The number could be worked out by the teams and NASCAR. They may decide to have these extra sessions at 5, 10 or 15 sites throughout the year.
My plan would eliminate the advantage of those engineering staffs because this extra practice would take place one day earlier than teams normally report to the track. Teams usually begin practice for a Sunday race on Friday. Instead, they would begin practice on Thursday at the pre selected races. The Thursday practice would be an all day session and teams could be allowed to use extra cars if they want and there would be no mandates on changing engines and other such regulations. The normal rules as far as the changing of engines and use of a back up car would not go into effect until the Friday practice.
Granted, teams could use this data later if an extra practice session were held at a track that has two race dates, but that would still be more fair for smaller teams because it would eliminate the testing crews the bigger teams have.
Simply put, all in season testing would be eliminated with my plan. In its place would be a system in which a designated number of tracks would be open for extra practice the day before teams would normally have reported to that track and these extra practices would be treated more like the test sessions used under the current system.
Team members and drivers often complain about testing. This should help to reduce the amount of time spent away from home and the shop and it could help cut costs for teams as well.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. His weekly column appears in The Mountain Press every Wednesday.
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